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Why has social BPM failed to take off at the corporate level?

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Anne Stuart: As Theo Priestley brings up in his blog, If only Social BPM moved as quickly as Social Media, There's money being poured into startups right now in social media and social tools but there's little buy in on the corporate level for Social BPM...Why do you think that is?

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  • Hello Peter,

    The reason is simply there is nothing to gain for the enterprise from a social add-on for BPM. Why would you add social to BPM anyway? If it is for the shortcomings of rigid processes defined in BPM you should tackle the issue at the roots and get rid of BPM altogether. If you want some sort of collaboration that is effective for your business goals while connecting to all your data, assets, and communications just forget about social everything because workers will go nuts trying to keep it all in check and designers will come up with models that are too complex from the outset to make it worthwhile.



  • I think BPM as a framework (as it operates by the majority of vendors) is simply too restrictive to cope with social media type interactions.

    The problem is that BPM essentially tries to understand and improve processes in a "flowchart" fashion. This is complex enough as it is for even simplish processes within an organisation. So how complicated and hard is it for something like social media which is very fluid shall we say....

    I think for BPM to takle the majority of business processes today, let alone address the issue of social media, we need to move away from presuming we can map out all processes, move away from flowcharts and think a lot more freely about implementing business processes...This is something I am moving my own company towards...

    I think Theo nails it when he states that BPM is looking at organisations as if it were 10 years ago...

  • The key question to ask for enterprise software: how do they monetize?

    This big enterprise vendors are not likely to build software that depends on ads to fund, for example.

    Much of the "social" technology being developed is going to look more like plumbing (a la email): mass adoption, relatively small revenue conversion (although because of the large numbers, even small conversion may add up to a lot of money).

    I'm not surprised that social has developed a lot faster than BPM. Its developed a lot faster than:
    - CRM
    - BI
    - ERP
    - DB

    over the last few years...

    This is the nature of new or emergent technology uses. The trick for BPM vendors is to figure out how to augment the value proposition leveraging these technologies. That's non-trivial from a product vision/product management point of view, but it isn't THAT hard from a technical point of view.

    IBM's Blueworks is just one, of what I'm sure will be many, BPM / social offerings that start to re-imagine what Social BPM means (or enables).

  • I believe the essence of Theo's message was to look at alternate ways to think about how social interactions play within a business process. Theo's assertion is that BPM is a sub-context of BPM and that we need to turn the model inside out. I'm understanding that to mean that today we look at social as a way to extend executable business processes and automation, we need to be thinking about how do we do business in the first place.

    Business is first and foremost a social activity. Yet another point that IT people just fully grok. So, shouldn't our business processes originate from these interactions directly? For example, the relationship between a buyer and their sales executive could originate from within a social media context and then transfer into a transactional context (BPM) for completion.

    Theo's idea holds some merit, but social is still the playground of the personal divide and has yet to truly become a business tool. Even business people connected through social mediums rarely have business discussions. It's still about what's personally important to the individuals engaged in that medium. LinkedIn is the one venue I have seen that starts with a business premise and it has been somewhat successful in transferring social to transactional. Primarily in the areas of employment, but I see they are starting to offer the company and product pages as well. It's not unforeseeable that a group discussion could lead directly to a purchase in the near future through this medium or that it becomes the primary interface for customer service.

  • I can see why it makes sense from a web traffic point of view to post provocative questions, but sometimes they border on trolling IMHO.

    My main response here is: can anyone think of *any* technology or management change that's become truly accepted at a corporate level within just a year or so of first being talked about? I can't.

    Next someone'll be saying "BPM is dead", I guess...

    PS JP makes some great points above, too.

  • One of the biggest problems in getting social anything adopted at the corporate level is that there are way too many models for social platforms.

    Twitter has struggled for so long to find a way to monetize its contents and corporations are still seeing it as a big waste of time. Perhaps the recipe is what IBM Blueworks Live is trying to do (thanks Scott for the plug) in curating the content and making it relevant to an enterprise that doesn't want to drink from the fire hose.

    We're also doing ourselves a disfavor by pitching social BPM as a new model. Enterprises are already doing social BPM. The only problem is in the platform that they are using which is mainly email.

  • As many of you know, Forrester first introduced social BPM in our 2009 BPM Tech Radar report, which highlighted the use of Web 2.0 and social tools within BPM implementations. In this report, we pointed out that social BPM components were still in the “Creation? and “Survival? stages of maturity - meaning that we saw evidence of leading-edge customers successfully applying the capability and beginning to share their experiences with others. We also highlighted that it would be between 1 and 3 years before components of social BPM moved to the next stage of maturity – primarily due to the slow adoption of enterprise social.

    So, I think the real question is “Why are companies so slow to adopt enterprise social??

    The simple answer: Most corporate leaders still associate social with Facebook and Twitter, and are ignorant to the potential of mining and managing their own internal social networks drive greater business value.

    The more complicated answer: Enterprise social – and social BPM by extension – in seeing healthy adoption in industries and organizations that have open cultures and have a need to innovate and share ideas quickly. Although it might seem counterintuitive, we’re seeing the greatest adoption of social BPM patterns in the healthcare and public sector – specifically in defense.

    My upcoming Forrester research report (currently going through editing), "Social Breaks The Log Jam On Process Improvement Initiatives" delves into key patterns, best practices, and case studies for how we're seeing leading firms apply social techniques and tools to their BPM initiatives.

    Clay Richardson, Senior Analyst serving Business Process professionals, Forrester Research

  • Social BPM depends on individual, culture and organization. It is not fast enough progressing because roles descriptions are not well defined, culture is hard to characterize and organization changes often.
    Social BPM is not standardized enough right now.
    Where social interaction is important it may be expressed in BPM as a "Consultation" activity and decision box where actions could be recommended - such as consult these roles - and then a human decision taken inside the limits of role responsibilities.

  • I think that the article http://blogs.hbr.org/davenport/2010/11/want_value_from_social_add_str.html is very relevant to this topic.

    From my experience with the « predecessor » of modern social tools, I noticed that just « collaboration » was not popular within enterprises (e.g. discussions, per se, have not been used) while « structured collaboration » worked well.

    At present, I don’t think that there is a “rigidity? problem with the BPM discipline – it is rather capable to provide required granularity of control over processes (see -- http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.com/2010/11/linkedin-acm-is-very-naughty-boy.html) – similar to changing the gear depending on the road situation. But there are not many tools (BPMs) which are equipped with the "gearbox" yet. And with the absence of a commonly-agreed understanding of BPM, it will take time for each BPMs vendor to re-invent own “gearbox?.


  • I just attended the Cisco Collaboration Summit (#csummit on Twitter). They had many compelling examples of process redesign. Of interest is SocialMiner which radically changes the customer service paradigm from one that is reactive to proactive. Comcast is another great example of a company that transformed customer service using social media - I've personally experienced this.

    Being able to design social processes means rethinking how the process works and embedding the use of social tools - into the work flow. Their case studies on the use of video were very compelling.

    See my blog "Social BPM Needs Process Designers"


    Tweaking processes will not enable social BPM, it requires vision, an understanding of the tools and design skills that take and "outside-in" view of the work. That is what do your customers think about how the process should work.

    The revolution is happening - it's just happening quietly.

  • It is just too soon. We haven't even got to a point where everyone agrees on what the term "Social BPM" means.

    Social BPM seems to have taken on two separate meanings (Scott has posted on this too in his blog – Process for the People ) – the first as a way to enable (and encourage) collaboration during the process of building the model of a process . BPMS vendors have started to add social technologies as part of their platform for the modeling community. This is useful, but not interesting. The reason I claim that it is not interesting – is that the process modeling process effects very few people in the organization, and it seems to be missing the point – why not enable the unstructured social aspects for every process? What makes process modeling unique?

    The second meaning of social BPM makes more sense to me –acknowledging that most business processes are people processes, and enabling the management of those unstructured, unpredictable people processes. I am surprised at how hard it is for mainstream BPMS vendors to accept this view. In discussing this with one large BPMS vendor they told me that it makes sense, but it really isn’t something they can do since it requires selling to the business, instead of IT (something that they don’t how to do). Another reaction I get from “standard? BPMS vendors is a blank stare – since the notion of an ad-hoc, unstructured process just doesn’t fit with their notion of a business process.

    So we are still a long way from mass adoption of social BPM - especially since most BPMS vendors prefer the first meaning, while I think most customers really need the tools enable the second.

  • The use of “Social for Business? is still pretty new for most organisations that I deal with. They are still struggling with a “Social Policy? and many of the large business still block or restrict access time to social media sites. That doesn’t mean to say people don’t access their Facebook and Twitter pages during work time. Just yesterday I learnt that 52% of all Facebook visits are from a mobile device. Which leads me to think that Adaptive Social Mobile BPM has more of a chance than structured flow, desktop based BPMS. :-)

    There is also a concern with some customers that we spoke to around how it would “open up? certain processes. As a BPMS developer and vendor we know that the future is “Social?, whether it is through Activity Streams in the actual process execution phase or in the collaboration during the process analysis phase. I believe most BPM solutions will have social components in their next releases which will please early adopters and hopefully drag the laggards into “Social for Business?

  • Let me add one additional, crucial yet simple concern: do you really think that the currently available social BPM tools are mature enough for convincing enterprises? Maybe if the advantages for adding social feature is not clear yet, it's also because the tools are not able to make it evident (or do not include the appropriate facilities).

    • One of the issues is that we constantly think we need a TOOL. Social BPM is NOT a tool. It's conceptual and logical view of how processes will work more holistically, encompassing all the activities, not just the things we can automate.

      No one would hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen who wanted to do all the work with a hammer. We would hire one with a toolbox full of different tools and a background in multiple areas. Social BPM is just the same.

      We need to get out of the mindset that a tool will solve all our challenges. Social BPM will require culture change, design, skill and technology. It needs to start with us. Let's lead this rather than sit back and discuss the merits of it.

  • I think we're asking too many of such questions too early...

    Or, in this case, a more relevant question could be - what are the ways in which business have started using social technologies to further enhance their BPM efforts.

    IMHO, Social BPM cannot be a term in itself. In the same way as we shouldn't have terms like Integrated BPM, Visual BPM, Analytical BPM, etc. (Of course there have been very similar attempts to invent terms like mobile BPM or Clouded BPM or Predictive BPM!) Social Technologies can be applied in any area (not only BPM) to leverage on the 2.0 of business, people/culture and architecture.

    Social way of doing business is more important, and organizations have started doing it to make their processes more effective. If we look at BPM as a discipline, one doesn't need to necessarily have a "Social wrapper on top of a BPMS" in order to "do BPM" in social way. BPM is embracing these technologies in subtle ways and need not be announced - it just happens and we know it does when we see it.

    I had written around Apr-May this year on my blog and those posts still apply in this context:



    - Ashish

  • I am ignoring the bit about modeling everything – no credible BPM approach, tool, or user does that any more.

    We never did.

    You model the goals, people, processes, etc. to the level that makes sense – to a level where you can capture and communicate the reason the process exists, how to measure success, who holds the responsibility for different components, and how the process generally hangs together. You mix highly detailed models with very ad-hoc, dynamic, socially driven areas with almost no structure.

    Then you let it all fly – structured bits and willy-nillybits.

    Seriously, we do see aspects of social BPM being applied – in between and amongst the structured, known, repeatable areas in an organization…

    Case management, new product introduction, research, professional work product
    review, etc. all have significant ad-hoc/dynamic/collaborative/social aspects to them.

    Any BPM approach should easily accommodate this flexibility and sneak in and add a hidden structure (by capture this flexi-point in the model) as well as adding context (based on past iterations, who is the best person to bring into this discussion?) or control (who has access to the case we are working on that might help?).

    And the possibility of improvement follows by analysis of the structured and social/collaborative pieces (Greg needs help at this point in every case. Maybe Greg needs to attend the same training Bob did…he certainly asks Bob for enough help).

    JP’s customer and sales executive is a great example.

    Overall, we see that "social" technologies have not been more adopted in business because to date they have been ad hoc and separate from critical business systems with no direct, auditable tie in to day-to-day work and decision-making.

    Given some time, social BPM can change this by tying collaboration and ready access to resources directly into work in progress, along with recording and audit ability.
    But even with a rational approach to what you model in BPM, you still put in more effort than rolling out even secure social media capabilities.

    In my experience you also derive greater, more measurable value.

    Now I think I will go build a ridiculously complex value stream model to clearly show that I am right!

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